Republicans fail to pick US House speaker after six rounds of votes

Party leader Kevin McCarthy fails to generate enough votes despite backing from Donald Trump and Mike Pence

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Republicans in the US House of Representatives failed in three successive votes on Wednesday to elect a new speaker, as far-right legislators continued to dash majority leader Kevin McCarthy's hopes of securing the job.

The California Republican has now suffered six humiliating defeats in two days as he failed over and over again to secure enough backers from within his own party — even with support from former president Donald Trump and former vice president Mike Pence.

But the potential 2024 presidential rivals' calls went unheeded by the group of hardline rebel Republicans, who view Mr McCarthy as insufficiently conservative and who have demanded changes to legislative processes in the House.

Lauren Boebert claimed that Mr Trump had called her on Tuesday evening, telling her and other like-minded Republicans to “knock it off” with their opposition to Mr McCarthy.

She said on the House floor that the former president should tell Mr McCarthy that he does not have the votes.

“It's time to withdraw,” she said before the fifth vote. After the sixth vote, lawmakers voted to adjourn until midday on Thursday.

Twenty Republicans voted in favour of Byron Donalds for the position in the last three rounds of votes.

Earlier in the day, Mr McCarthy had been confident, especially after securing the backing of Mr Trump.

“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it's now time for all of our great Republican House members to vote for Kevin, close the deal, take the victory and watch crazy Nancy Pelosi fly back home,” Mr Trump posted on the Truth Social platform on Wednesday morning.

Mr Pence also threw his weight behind Mr McCarthy.

Chip Roy, a Republican holdout, said: “We’re still a long way from fixing this institution the way it needs to be fixed.”

Because of the Republicans' slim majority of 222 seats in the 434-member chamber, Mr McCarthy can afford to lose only four of those votes to secure the 218 needed to secure the House speaker position.

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday morning that the Republicans' protracted process to elect a House speaker was “embarrassing”.

“I hope they get their act together,” he said.

With Republicans at a stalemate, business in the House cannot proceed. It also stalls Republican plans to establish committees investigating Mr Biden's family and administration, as well as put into motion their policy agenda for the session.

In addition, the new Congress cannot be sworn in until a speaker is elected.

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Party leader in the House, took to Twitter on Tuesday to deride the dysfunction of his Republican colleagues.

“Day one. House Dems are united and ready to get to work. Complete chaos on the other side of the aisle,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, all 212 Democrats continued to vote in support of Mr Jeffries for House speaker, breaking into applause each time he was nominated.

But with Democrats in the minority, it is highly unlikely that Mr Jeffries will be elected as speaker.

Karl Rove, a former top adviser in the George W Bush White House, called the “chaos” in the House an “utter, unmitigated disaster” for the Republicans.

The House speaker is one of the most powerful positions in Washington and second in line to the presidency.

Whoever holds the gavel controls the voting agenda, sets committee assignments and oversees the daily business of the lower chamber.

Departing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used the powerful position to shepherd through the Affordable Care Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. She also set the schedule during both of former president Donald Trump's impeachments.

With Democrats unlikely to do Mr McCarthy any favours by voting for him, the House could be in for a long process to select a speaker.

Patrick deHahn contributed reporting from New York

Updated: January 05, 2023, 1:37 AM